KaBOOM! recognizes city for ‘pro-play policies’

For the second straight year, Oak Park Heights was among 213 cities earning recognition from national non-profit KaBOOM! as 2012 Playful City USA communities for their efforts to increase play opportunities for children.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play is critical to healthy brain development. It allows children to use their creativity while simultaneously developing imagination, dexterity and physical, cognitive and emotional strength. Yet today’s children spend less time playing outside than any previous generation in part because only 1-in-5 live within walking distance of a park or playground. The resulting play deficit is having profound consequences for kids physically, socially and academically.

Presented by The Humana Foundation, Playful City USA is a national program advocating for local policies that increase play opportunities for children and is a key platform in combating the play deficit.

KaBOOM!, the national non-profit organization dedicated to saving play, created Playful City USA in 2007 to help local governments address the play deficit and it is through mayors, city council members, parks and recreation departments, school districts and community leaders that the program succeeds in benefitting children.

KaBOOM! selected Oak Park Heights for its outstanding dedication to play. Oak Park Heights has established playgrounds in nearly every neighborhood in the city to offer play spaces within walking distance for all residents. The new play spaces at Brekke Park, Valley View Park and the upcoming community-build at the Moelter site re-development, have stemmed from a greater appreciation of the importance of parks and playgrounds.

"Some of the most innovative concepts and cost-effective programs are being developed in Playful City USA communities," says Darell Hammond, founder and CEO of KaBOOM! and author of "The New York Times" best seller "KaBOOM!: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play."

"Cities like Oak Park Heights are key allies in the fight to combat the play deficit and serve as outstanding role models for government and community leaders across the country," Hammond added.

Hailing from 41 states, other Playful City USA honorees range in size from six-time honorees such as Orlando and Phoenix to first-time recipient Independence, Ore., (population: 9,607). These Playful City USA communities are making a commitment to play and physical activity by developing unique local action plans to increase the quantity and quality of play in their community.

In the sixth year of the annual program, 19 Playful City USA communities received recognition for the sixth consecutive year, while 24 earned honors for the fifth time, 27 for the fourth time, 29 for the third time, 45 for the second time and 69 claimed their first Playful City USA designation.

Each of the 2012 Playful City USA communities demonstrated creative commitments to addressing the play deficit. Playful City USA celebrates and highlights these unique initiatives developed by communities across the country. A primary goal of Playful City USA is to encourage cities and towns to share ideas, concepts and programs in an effort to increase play opportunities for children. City initiatives include:

For more information on the KaBOOM! Playful City USA program, including Let’s Play grants and applications for 2013, visit www.playfulcityusa.org.

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